frgavin on December 13th, 2011

By Mario Bergner, Redeemed Lives

The influence of postmodernism is reshaping the outreach of some evangelical churches to minister sexual redemption in Christ. Books like Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin and A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren have led the way. They encourage Christians to establish a conversational rapport with people in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community for the purpose of introducing them to Jesus Christ, which is a good thing. But Marin and McLaren believe applying redemption to the sexualities of people in the LGBT community is a not a Biblical mandate, although they concede sexual redemption for some is an option.

Sexual Redemption is Not Optional

If the Gospel message had been first communicated to me in such a way that sorting through my same-sex issues was an optional part of redemption in Jesus Christ, I would have never repented of homosexuality. The option of retaining the pleasures of gay-sex alongside being a Christian would have been a no-brainer. Over twenty-five years ago I attempted this by attending a gay-affirming Episcopal Church in New York City when I was a student at NYU. The sermons always included a polemic about gay rights, which seemed disingenuous since the Bible does not mention homosexuality enough to warrant a weekly reference to it. But my early exposure to the authority of the Holy Scripture prevented me from baptizing homosexual behavior as a Christian practice.

 

After my return to Christ, I read for the first time Hebrews 11:25 which speaks of “the pleasures of sin.” When I read St. Augustine’s Confessions I laughed aloud for his raw honesty about his own struggles against the pleasures of sexual sin. He wrote, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet! For I was afraid lest Thou shouldest hear me so, and soon deliver me from the disease of concupiscence, which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished.” What a relief it was to learn I did not have to hate what the Scripture asked me to yield to Jesus. This divine insight empowered me to disengage from homosexual activity and never return to it.

In the late 1970s and early-1980s a still small voice began to speak about the power of the Gospel to bring sexual redemption to people with same-sex attractions. This was in stark contrast to the caustic loud voice of Christians like Anita Bryant and crusaders of the Moral Majority who addressed homosexuality only as a societal menace. After being hit in the face with a pie by a gay activist during a television interview, Bryant responded, “At least it’s a fruit pie.” Then, while the gay man was restrained following Bryant’s pejorative remark, she prayed, “Father, I ask that you forgive him.” Really? You can watch the ridiculous clip on YouTube. As a pastoral corrective to such hypocrisy a variety of Christian outreaches emerged such as Pastoral Care Ministries, College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Exodus International and Desert Stream / Living Waters offering compassionate pastoral care for men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA). When as a Christian I became active in the gay community in 1979 the only ‘Christian’ voice I heard on this issue was Bryant’s.

Quieting the Offer of Sexual Redemption

Fortunately, as the voice of the Moral Majority decreased, the voice of those offering effective pastoral care for unwanted SSA increased. It was then I heard the sweet pastoral offer from compassionate Christians about the Biblical reality of sexual redemption in Christ. After coming out of homosexuality, I continued to engage my dear friends in the LGBT community through personal conversations in the hopes of offering them that same sweetness. Between 1989 and 2002 Redeemed Lives gave over thirty events entitled A Christian Response to Homosexuality in Europe and North America attended by thousands in the LGBT community. It was a Christian conversation where the reality of sexual redemption in Christ was offered to all. Today, Marin and McLaren write with a hubris as if they are the first compassionate Christians to dialogue with the LGBT community.

But a shift occurred to silence the growing ministry and proclamation of sexual redemption in Christ. This can be attributed to a variety of causative factors within the Church and society. One was the premature public showcasing of men and women overcoming SSA. A number of these people, after starting ex-gay ministries and making testimonial videos, reverted. Concurrently, there was a growing movement within society to legislate gay-marriage and special hate-speech laws to protect the LGBT community. So while the witness of effective pastoral care was weakened, the political aims of the LGBT community strengthened. With moral failures of some ex-gays (now known as ex-ex-gays) and the growing legal status of the LGBT community, churches backed away from offering sexual redemption in Christ. To make matters worse, some politically active Christians took up the vitriolic voice of the Moral Majority implying the legalization of same-sex marriage is the singular cultural torpedo that is sinking the ship of Western Civilization. Yet heterosexual contributions such as the destruction of the family through rampant divorce and remarriage rates as well as abortion are ignored. Still ministries like Exodus, Living Waters and Redeemed Lives continue, mostly with the quiet support of the Church, sometimes without Church support and rarely with any overt support.

Now the advancement of postmodernism in the evangelical Church has opened a door to engage people in the LGBT community without the offer of sexual redemption. The epistemology of postmodernism is a hybrid of subjective experiences, the culture we live in and the influences of the moment we occupy in history. Therefore, the only truth (if it can even be called that) is that which we approach in the articulation of one’s personal story. Consequently, “my story” as articulated by members of the LGBT community takes precedence over God’s Story. For over twenty years I participated in the postmodern sexuality dialogues in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. (My contributions to the Windsor Report and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Listening Process are available on the RL website.) In those two decades the Holy Scripture was gradually disempowered of its authority as members of LGBT community in the Episcopal Church made ‘their stories’ the measure of truth. This led to an historic division in the Anglican Communion.

A Case Study: The Greater Boston Vineyard

The same postmodern conversation with the LGBT community that divided Anglicanism is occurring in some evangelical churches. For example, in May of this, the Rev. David Schmelzer, lead pastor of the Greater Boston Vineyard, has posted online a three part podcast that shows how “my story” by four members of the LGBT community trumps God’s Story (www.notreligious.typepad.com,) then select May 2011 from Archives). This Vineyard is located in Cambridge, a city known for its sizeable LGBT self-identified population. For over a decade it offered one of the most effective Living Waters programs in the USA, helping literally hundreds of people find relational and sexual redemption in Christ. However, it has not been offered at this Vineyard for several years. In the podcast, the Rev. Schmelzer praises the ministry of Living Waters. He is a compassionate shepherd, who cares deeply for his flock.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.